Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 7 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 2028..
MR SESELJA: My question is to the Minister for Health. In the federal budget released yesterday, Medicare service charges for GPs have been capped at $36 per visit. The latest report on government services shows that the ACT has the lowest bulk-billing rate for GPs in the country and the longest emergency department waiting times in the country. The service charge is a large factor in whether GPs bulk-bill patients, which directly affects people's affordable access to GP services. Chief Minister, what action will you take to encourage more ACT GPs to bulk-bill, given that the federal Labor government has decided to cap service fees?
MS GALLAGHER: I would draw members' attention to the fact that in the last report—I think it is a quarterly report—on bulk-billing rates, bulk-billing rates increased slightly in the ACT in the last quarter and are now, I think, about 51 per cent, which is still about 20 per cent below the next jurisdiction's average bulk-billing rate. The only thing the ACT government can do in this area, and we have no ability to influence bulk-billing rates locally, is to ensure that we have a good supply of doctors coming through. We have a range of supports through the GP development fund that both encourage and support existing GPs that train the next generation of GPs and, alongside of that, work with GPs about the establishment of clinics across Canberra. That is what the government has been doing, and that is what we will continue to do. We cannot require GPs to bulk-bill; that is an individual business decision for them.
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Seselja.
MR SESELJA: Minister, did you advocate to the federal government on the issue of Medicare services charges and the effect of possible changes on Canberrans? If so, what were those representations? If not, why not?
MS GALLAGHER: I am sorry, I did not hear the question. The question was: did I?
Mr Seselja: Did you?
MS GALLAGHER: No, I was unaware of it. It is no surprise, Mr Seselja, that we are not sitting round the table when the federal government are formulating their budget or specific elements of it. I have and will continue to lobby the commonwealth government in relation to the supply of GPs in the territory. The single biggest thing that will increase the bulk-billing rate in the ACT is more GPs and the competition that that creates.
MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mrs Jones.
MRS JONES: Minister, what options do Canberrans have for urgent doctor services if they are unable to access a bulk-billing GP and there are fairly long waits at emergency?